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Hooked Rugs

No one is sure who made the first hooked rugs, but most historians think it was the Vikings. We do know that in the early 19th century, floormats were made in the United States from 9-inch-long pieces of yarn leftover from machines that made rugs.

The first rugs to interest U.S. collectors were made at Grenfell Mission, a philanthropic organization founded in 1892 to help residents of Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada. In the 1920s and 1930s, they de-veloped a cottage industry to make and sell handicrafts. Items included knitted goods and hooked rugs from donated dyed silk stockings, and later flannelette, wool, and burlap. The rugs had artists’ scenes of Lab-rador and were sold in retail shops in the U.S. and England. Grenfell rugs are now prized by collectors.

By 1940, rug making had become an art form, not just a job for the poor. Artists and amateurs made hooked rugs to use or sell. This hooked rug pictures a map of the United States. On the back it reads, “For Peter Stone on his 5th birthday November 10, 1940, with Carlo’s love.” Perfect provenance. It sold at a Cowan’s auction for $469.

Q: I found an old serving tray in a resale shop that caught my eye. It is handpainted with flowers and leaves. There is a lot of gold detail. It looks old. The saleswoman said it was toleware. What is that?

A: Toleware is painted tinware, usually with a black varnished background and designs painted on by hand or stenciled. It is correct to call any painted tin-plated sheet metal painted tin. Tin was painted to protect it from rust as well as to make it attractive. Toleware made before the 19th century was often called japanned ware.

The designs were sometimes inspired by Japanese lacquer ware. Toleware prices depend on the design and whether there is rust or paint loss. It is very popular today and a tray can sell for $200 or more. There is also toleware with a red background.

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